Review: Franz Ferdinand and Sparks unite as FFS
Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, "FFS" (Domino)
FFS is an art-rock supergroup, bringing together Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, a Los Angeles synth-pop duo whose experimental theatrics have made them cult figures in Britain for 40 years.
Both bands tend to divide opinion, but — love them or loathe them — they were made for each other.
The two groups share a verbal playfulness, a fondness for a good hook and a jagged energy that can verge on the histrionic. The voices of Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos and Sparks' falsetto-loving Russell Mael — half of Sparks with brother Ron — intertwine gorgeously on the project's self-titled debut.
The songs trace a series of vivid vignettes and characters, ranging from an autocrat's offspring ("Dictator's Son") to a suburban terrorist ("Little Guy from the Suburbs") to a guy who thinks he has a chance with a girl who's out of his league, on "Johnny Delusional."
That's the lead single and the collaboration's high point, an irresistible blend of catchy hooks and disco beats. It's almost matched by "Call Girl," another synth-and-beats confection whose title is typically misleading (the chorus asks, "Why don't you call, girl?")
The album is wordy and playful, bravura and glam, and self-referential to the point of self-indulgence. There's an almost seven-minute song, dripping with strings and irony, called "Collaborations Don't Work."
Not everyone will embrace its retro synth sounds and operatic vocal harmonies that wouldn't feel out of place on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." But it's hard to resist any band that rhymes "martyr" with "Sartre" and "Hugo Boss" with "dental floss."
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